Frugality at INSEAD: An Oxymoron?

Rasitha Wijesekera

It’s funny how time passes. It feels as if I joined INSEAD in Singapore a lifetime ago, but I just looked at my calendar and it’s only been a little over a month.

I’ve attended a bunch of parties, drank a few too many beers and gone on two international trips in the span of five weeks.

INSEAD certainly does live up to its name of being an unforgettable year.

Still, as a student financing his MBA through loans and savings, I am starting to see my bank balance taking a spectacular nosedive. So, the following are my thoughts on how to maximise experiences while going easy on the wallet.

Cut out expensive habits

Coming for a lecture at 8.30 in the morning after a long night of partying or meeting an assignment deadline is no easy task without a caffeine boost. Some students opt for a paid coffee rather than going for the free coffee machine sitting on the side. Running the numbers, paying for your coffee would add up to about SGD$60 – $100 a month.

But, when it comes to things that you drink, no expense comes close to the beer bill. Singapore is notorious for its overpriced drinks, though it never seems to stop anyone from drinking. The more you can avoid buying drinks (hold a glass of iced water with a straw as a prop instead) the more your wallet will thank you. This can save about another SGD 200 a month.

Do not give in to FOMO

A phrase popular at INSEAD is FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

It is important to realise though, not everyone has the same interests. Therefore, even when most of my classmates are going to the F1 rally in the coming weekend, I decided to stay away and save the ticket price. Why pay hundreds of dollars to see a bunch of cars going around in a circle (sorry F1 fans) when I can go on a free hike with other classmates along a beautiful park trail. By sticking to your interests and considering what is a worthy expense, you can probably save another SGD$200 a month.

Plan ahead

Most of all though, planning ahead can save you the most money. The earlier you buy air tickets for trips or book your accommodation for school the cheaper your biggest expenses will be. As busy students and professionals, we always have an excuse as to why we can do this tomorrow and not today. When I booked my ticket to Phuket last week, I postponed the booking by one day and saw the ticket price going up by SGD$50. On average, proper planning can probably save about SGD$200 on rent and SGD$100 on air tickets every month.

However, even with all this said, compared to the tuition and overall expenses (and hopefully your fancy job after graduation), your daily habits are not going to make a big dent in the final bill.

Therefore, it is important to keep a balance between cutting out unnecessary expenses and cutting out experiences of a lifetime.

In the end, INSEAD is a very personal experience and it’s up to you to decide how you want it remembered.